Flashback: ‘Those gentle heroes’

If you are able
save for them a place
inside of you…
And save one backward glance
when you are leaving
for the places they can
no longer go…
Be not ashamed to say
you loved them,
though you may
or may not have always…
Take what they have left
and what they have taught you
with their dying
and keep it with your own…
And in that time
when men decide and feel safe
to call the war insane,
take one moment to embrace
those gentle heroes
you left behind…


U.S. Army Maj. Michael Davis O’Donnell penned that poem on 1 January 1970, while serving near Dak To, Vietnam.

Maj. O’Donnell was declared MIA on 24 March 1970 when his helicopter crashed and burned while on a rescue mission in Cambodia. He was declared KIA two months later. His remains were recovered in 1995 and identified in 2001.